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Conversations with our Digital Academy students

Sally Caughey
1 May 2019

I caught up with four students from all around the world who are going through our coding course, run in partnership with Code Your Future and designed to improve their pathways to employment.

Behind our corporate social impact programme, which aims to build the digital skills of refugees and others from under-represented groups, are people who just want a fair opportunity to be included in society.

I caught up with four students from all around the world who are going through our coding course, run in partnership with Code Your Future and designed to improve their pathways to employment. Three things struck a chord with me:

  1. All our students have high potential, but they all also have lacked access to opportunities.

Their lives have been interrupted by war, political uncertainty, natural disasters, or simply, life has not been kind to them. Many were previously in training or qualified in other disciplines but have been unemployed or underemployed for years. This is backed up by UN figures, which show there are 121,837 refugees in the UK and over 40,000 asylum seekers, over 50% of refugees with formal education and qualification remain unemployed for several years. Innovative programmes like ours seek to address this.

  1. We must help students overcome a deep-rooted fear of failure, which is their biggest barrier to their learning.

Our students have all seized the opportunity to join our course and improve their future through learning new skills.  But they have spoken of an inner fear of not wanting to show weakness in case it jeopardises their future. They are worried they might fail. But we know that to fail is to learn.  Therefore, our role as course sponsors, facilitators and mentors must be to encourage and nurture learning.  We must ensure we have the right skills to fulfil their learning needs – not just providing technical mentors but creating the right environment for them.

  1. Our role is to create an environment where people feel safe to learn.

Building confidence and establishing a trusted community has come to be the foundation of the course.  Code Your Future leads the way in creating this environment. Their borrowed buildings are much more than physical spaces; they are home to people who come together to meet, eat and learn.  From our perspective, we have invested in building relationships with our students, getting to know their histories and ambitions, and navigating them through their learning journeys.  We have invited them in to our offices, to get to know us and how we work.

Read on to find out more about our students’ stories, in their words.

Mother with a technology background, Pakistan

I arrived over ten years ago from Pakistan and with a technical background, I was able to get my first job. But then I had children. By the time I was ready for a job, the skills gap had widened and roles for women like me, seemed out of reach.

Signing up to the course was a big step. I knew it was going to be hard to fit in work with my family life, so I took my laptop with me everywhere, doing just ten minutes here and there, where I could. At the beginning it all took so long. I didn’t want to show what I didn’t know.

The big learning for me has come from the supportive community and the network of mentors. To get the best, we have to work with each other, in a group.  I have had to learn to publish my attempts on our group network and ask for help. Learning to show mistakes is how I am learning.

I’ve become brave enough to ask questions. I have realised that coding is just ‘figuring it out’.  It’s just a soft skill applied to technology. And I am applying this thinking to everything, because everything can be figured out.

The course is great. It’s like a bootcamp for fast paced learning, giving me progress, little by little, step by step I am learning. These coding modules combined with practice at other skills (like CV writing and interviews) all help.  Having mentors that come in to help you when you get stuck and having a homework club with guidance from industry people is a real chance to learn. It feels like we have a community and that is priceless. And it’s that which makes me feel confident enough to do a job interview.

Teaching Assistant, Turkey

I’ve now been in the UK for four years. It’s very difficult when you come here without a network and it’s been very hard to get a job.

I want to improve my future. Technology is a big industry and while I have no experience in anything technical, I heard about this course through friends.  I know you can train yourself online, but the community that comes with the Code Your Future and Capgemini partnership is so important. It’s a big difference – to know that a company in the industry is sponsoring us and taking us into their offices to build our confidence and give us more experience.

At first, I struggled. There was a lot of work and I didn’t think I could do it. But I looked at my mentor, and I remembered, ‘He’s sacrificing his time for free, to help us, so I have to do it, I have to make it work. Even with another job.’   Having someone actually show you, explain to you, is completely different from working alone. The network here is like a ‘safe zone’, it takes away the stress.

I am learning the courage to learn new things. I am beginning to believe there is no limit to learning. This is only the beginning, we have a long way to go and so much more we can learn and do.

Chemical Engineer, Sudan

I have been here for three years. Unfortunately, it’s been very difficult to get a job. I am qualified in my country, I used to have a good job. But in the eyes of UK employers, I don’t have the relevant qualifications, certifications or experience.  Language and network are barriers of course.

I had been waiting, trying to find an opportunity when this course came along.  But I was so worried. It’s a completely new field and I have no experience. That for me has been the hardest thing. Starting from the beginning.

But the course is giving me much more than technical skills. It’s other skills, like the confidence to ‘try’ again.  The community is so supportive. Perhaps this really could be the beginning of something new.

Technology Student, Sudan

I arrived here over two years ago but I haven’t been able to work, because I only got the right to work in August.  

I studied Java before, but it’s different from Javascript. And doing this course gives me hope. Hope that I will get a job.  But there is a lot of theory and it can be very hard to understand, but I just keep trying.  I won’t give up this opportunity.  I have the experience and discipline to do this course.

The course is much more than I was expecting. It is giving me new skills of course, but confidence too. I am learning self-belief again. Because the course is about the group: our group work, our group calls, and our group support.  And it’s giving me a chance to improve my communication skills. When I first came here it was a challenge to learn anything new.  Here we are helped with the technical skills, but also people are giving up their time to help us communicate and participate in the course and in the group.

I never imagined I would be able to do this kind of course. These kinds of courses that give your real qualifications are very expensive. Too expensive. We are getting everything, the skills, the support, and our mentors. I have hope for my future.

This blog is the second in a series of three.  We will share more insights from the perspective of our volunteers in the next few weeks, and read here for our key learnings from the course put together by Sally Caughey, our digital inclusion lead. Also visit our pages to find out more about Capgemini’s commitment to digital inclusion.